The New Deal
Herbert Hoover Speeches
UNDERMINING REPRESENTATIVE GOVERNMENT
Address delivered to Joint Republican Organizations
October 17, 1938
The election of the Congress of the United States is always a serious action by the people. But this election has been elevated to fateful heights not seen in generations. It is no conflict between Republican and traditional Democratic policies. It is a conflict between two ideas of life for America. That conflict started in 1933. It is not a conflict between the old and the new in American life. It is a conflict between age-old personal government and a government of free men under the rule of law.
Mr. Roosevelt now challenges the nation to line itself into what he calls the Liberal Party and what he calls the Conservative Party. Mr. Roosevelt has a right to make himself into a party all by himself if he likes. Whether parties or men are liberals or conservatives does not depend either on slogans or their own say-so or on Mr. Roosevelt's definitions.
The greatest Teacher of Mankind said, "By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns or figs of thistles?”
There are already five evil products from these years of the New Deal that have become self-evident.
The first is the generation of political morals to the lowest ebb in our history.
The second is the malignant growth of personal power in this Republic.
The third is heart-breaking growth of hate, class division, and disunity in the most classless country in the world.
The fourth is that underneath all this is a creeping collectivism that is steadily eating away the vitalities of free enterprise.
The fifth is that after six years of these policies we have 11,000,000 people out of jobs. Farm prices, reckoned in old gold values, are lower than ever in our history. We have before us 20 billions increase in national debt. We and the other democracies of the world in 1932 started recovery from the inevitable post-war depression. They, except France, years ago recovered employment beyond pre-depression levels -- France copies the New Deal. In the best of our hectic six years 8,000,000 men have ceaselessly walked the streets searching for work.
Whether we agree or disagree on the methods to halt these dangers, certainly no one will disagree that we are grievously confronted with them. These issues transcend all traditional party lines.
A few days ago at Kansas City I explored the corruption of morals by this New Deal brand of liberalism. I offered an alternative program. On November 5th I shall speak upon its economic consequences to the average man. Tonight I shall explore the consequences to representative government and freedom of men and women from this New Deal corruption of liberalism.
In all the centuries of the struggle to establish liberty under the rule of law, humanity has builded stone by stone the safeguards against personal power. Every school child knows, or should know, that the reason why this Republic of free men has flourished longer than any republic in modern history is because power was divided among the three branches as check and balance each upon the other. These are its protective barricades.
Liberty never dies from direct attack. No man ever arises and says, "Down with Liberty.” Liberty has died in 14 countries in a single score of years from weakening its safeguards, from demoralization of the moral stamina of the people.
My first example of Mr. Roosevelt's "liberal” attack on liberty is his attempt to invade the independence of the Supreme Court. I do not need to refresh your minds much on that aggression of personal power. Nor am I here raising the question of the liberalism of the Ku Klux Klan.
The indignation which swept the country at these actions was an inspiring moment in popular government. For here the people demonstrated an understanding of one of the most profound yet subtle safeguards of human liberty—the independence of judges.
We also say this rise of indignation again over the so-called Reorganization Bill. The people at once sifted from a useful rearrangement of government bureaus the attempt again to invade the protections to liberty in the semi-judicial bodies and the Civil Service.
Some may think these assaults on the judicial bulwarks of free men are defeated and behind us. The words of the New Dealers do not confirm this hope.
And that brings us to the second assault on the safeguards to representative government, which is a major issue in this election. Our immediate task is to emancipate the legislative arm of the government from the personal domination of Mr. Roosevelt.
The independence of the Congress from domination by the Executive is just as vital as the independence of the Supreme Court. The safeguards of our liberty and the rights of minorities rest as much with the Congress as they do upon the Supreme Court. And beyond all its own independent responsibility, the Congress alone can prevent Executive domination of the Judiciary. Nobody but the people can protect the Congress.
If we examine the fate of wrecked republics throughout the world we find their first symptoms in the weakening of the legislative arm. Subservience in legislative halls is the spot where liberty and political morals commit suicide.
For six years now, except for momentary gleams of independence, the country has witnessed an overwhelming majority in Congress blindly taking orders from the President.
Nobody will deny that the majority of these Congresses have been simply rubber stamps for the Executive. They don't deny it themselves. They claim support of Mr. Roosevelt's political machine on the ground that they have been 100 percent. It appears that even 99 percent is no longer a passing mark. This full 100 percent constitutes Mr. Roosevelt's requirement for the degree of Doctor of Laws. And laws which are partly unconstitutional at that.
I perhaps know something of the relations of the Congress and executive officers from 15 years of daily contact. In view of my experience in 1931-1932, however, you may be surprised that I should today be defending the Congress. At that time with both a Democratic majority and the Republican Old Guard it was a troubled variety of co-operation. They were often possessed of the demons of partisanship. Despite the demons and their obstructions we got through the long list of constructive measures which started Recovery in the spring of 1932. I defended the independence of Congress then against public criticism. I defend its independence now because I want liberty to live in America
The whole concept of representative government is that Senators and Congressmen should be independent minded men chosen by the people of their districts and states. They represent the forty-eight states and not the President. They should not be chosen by the President. They should not be run by him either.
It is true that Congress should co-operate with the President in constructive legislation. But co-operation is the relation of equals, not those of master and servant. Now I will be told at once that the evolution of party leadership has changed all this. That is not true. It is true that parties are the mechanism by which the people express their will as to the laws they want in government. Mr. Roosevelt justifies his reduction of the Congress to servitude on the ground that he must compel compliance with these mandates of his party. It would seem perplexing to a Congressman as to which are party mandates and which are Mr. Roosevelt's improvised ideas. We may assume, however, that the party mandates and not Mr. Roosevelt's improvised ideas were what the Congress was elected upon.
I dislike digging up follies bones of dead mandates. But I must take the bunk out of this mandate stuff. Their platform of 1932 had something in it about reduction of government expenditures, economy and balanced budget. From what the New Deal has left of that skeleton you cannot even make out what the animal looked like. Also I faintly remember some turgid pledges to take the government out of all fields of private enterprise. There was a blistering pledge not to tinker with the currency. And there was a resounding pledge against the use of money in politics. I would not cause pain by the recall of the death of this original list of pious mandates.
Incidentally I find that Democratic platforms in olden days demanded a non-political civil service. There is not much of that skeleton left either.
But there are the mandates which Mr. Roosevelt discovered after the party had finished its platform in 1932. In that platform or the ensuing campaign there was not a single breath of the long list of acts which afterward were declared unconstitutional by the Courts. Again in 1936 the Democratic Platform did not even intimate the packing of the Supreme Court, or the Executive control of the semi-judicial bodies or the Civil Service through the Reorganization Bill. So much for the alibi of a party mandate from the people. The so-called mandates seem to be the rubber part of the stamp.
However, I note that the New Deal with its usual variations from intellectual honesty has transformed that old-fashioned word "pledge,” which connotes the immediate, into the pious word "objective,” which connotes a long time off. That changed words "objective” does away with the element of time in President Lincoln's assurance that "you cannot fool all the people all the time.”
And now let us explore in a little detail some of the definite responsibilities of the Congress which are today in process of destruction.
1.Obviously the members are elected to formulate the laws. The President does not make the laws. He is required to call public needs to the consideration of Congress. Instead Mr. Roosevelt submitted laws fully drafted and stamped "must.”
His yes-yes majority did not even protect the dignity of Congress by appearing to formulate their own bills. They took it as if they were office boys. And they often got their orders from office boys. It takes free men to make laws for free men.
2.Members of Congress are under individual oath to maintain the Constitution. They are under no oath to say yes-yes. They are the first trench of Constitutional defense. Yet this yes-yes group passed measure after measure that was unconstitutional. If they did it innocently they were a dumb and deaf group of lawyers. They submitted to the President's orders to pass one measure even though they might think it was unconstitutional. And it proved to be so. But what is the Constitution among rubber stamps?
3.One of the highest functions of any legislative body in a democracy is sober consideration and effective debate. No piece of legislation has ever come before Congress that cannot be perfected by debate and discussion. Yet this rubber-stamp majority had permitted their responsibilities so to degenerate that they passed arrogant rules limiting debate to a few hours or even minutes. And these measures were affecting the welfare of 130 million people. They should have had weeks of real consideration. The jobs of thousands of men would have been saved.
And this is more so because nearly a half of our people are opposed to most of the
acts of this rubber-stamp majority. Yet this opposition is represented in Congress by less than 20 percent of its members. This thin Congressional minority physically cannot investigate and competently debate legislation. The anvil of debate is the prime safety of democracy in forming its laws. That is the check on arrogance and personal power. Even the New Dealers admit that sometimes when they are trying to prove themselves Liberals.
4.When revolutionary measures are introduced to the Congress which have never been before the people in a campaign surely the people have a right to a few days in which to express their views and show the injuries which will be done them.
Even emergency never excuses that amount of haste. Later on the so-called emergency was over and prosperity was said by the President to have at least responded to Planning. Yet even then people were given no chance to debate, or even understand the proposals.
5.The foremost purpose, from the very beginning, of all parliaments and all legislative bodies is the control of the national purse. Men died over a whole century to wrest it from the English kings. The control of executive expenditures by the people's representatives has been the battle of the people against dictatorial grasp since Edward I. That is the very root of the people's power.
And this supine majority of ours over the last six years has surrendered this vital protection of the people for the first time in our legislative history. It has voted over fifteen billions of lump sums to the President to be expended at his will. That idea goes back to Charles I.
The surrender by Congress of power over the purse through appropriation of fifteen billion dollars of lump appropriations has placed fifteen billions of personal power in the hands of the President.
Thereby they conferred upon the President the power both to cajole and to purge the individual Congressman.
The old-fashioned pork barrel has become a whole pork-packing establishment—all under the leadership of the Executive. Any many members of the not-quite-yes group have been kept in line by beguilement with pieces of their own pork.
All this is a flagrant moral debauchery of their sacred function of safeguarding the money squeezed by taxes from the toil of a people.
6.The Congress is supposed to be the people's watchdog over efficiency and honesty in the bureaucracy. If ever there was a mandate from the people to the Congress it is to preserve the merit system for appointments to Federal jobs under the Civil Service Commission. It has been the battle of the people against the politicians for fifty years. Once upon a time the New Deal gave it strong lip service. Yet this rubber-stamp majority on the President's demand specifically provided that the alphabetical agencies should be politically appointed without regard to the merit system of the Civil Service Commission. It is not an imaginary idea that the yes-yes men also liked the notion of having some share in selecting 300,000 political appointees from their districts. These yes men have a full responsibility for this debauchery of political morals to the lowest ebb in our history.
And that brings me to the third category of these sinister aggressions of personal power in this republic. That is the Executive attempt to control elections. That alone should make the election of independent-minded men to Congress the first task of men who would be free.
We have seen Mr. Roosevelt mass this Praetorian army of political appointees to purge those men of his own party who have shown sparks of manhood, of independence, and obedience to their oath.
And this is not a quarrel in the Democratic Party upon which Republicans can look with glee. If these methods be applied to members of his own party you will not expect them to be withheld from the opposition party.
But it is far more serious than any question of party. It goes to the very roots of the independence of the legislative arm. It goes to the very core of the right of the people to choose their own representatives. It goes to the whole question of the independence of the ballot itself. It goes to the foundation of personal power in this Republic.
Mr. Stalin was the founder of the political purge. Or was it Mr. Hitler?
Mr. Hitler also has a parliament. You may not know it. It was also once upon a time an independent arm of the German government. But Mr. Hitler has rearranged its function. I quote him: "Individual members may advise but never decide; that is the exclusive prerogative of the responsible president for the time being.”
Mr. Roosevelt is not however proposing the German form of parliamentary practice. He only has a passion for unanimity of view. And he likes leadership with a compulsory following.
In speaking in opposition I always find myself limited in the use of hard words lest I should overstate or be lacking in courtesy. It is, I hope, permissible for me to select some words from the sackcloth wails of the Democratic newspapers who supported Mr. Roosevelt.
The New York Times exclaims: "... How great an intellectual servitude the President now requires from his followers.”
The Atlanta Constitution says: "He would turn the United States Senate into a gathering of 96 Charlie McCarthies with himself as Edgar Bergen.”
Lynchburg (Va.) Advance: "Are the people of the forty-eight states to select their representatives in Congress or is the President of the United States to perform that duty for them and thereby become a national dictator?”
The Charlotte (Va.) Observer: "... A new Napoleon. ... Crucifixion of the inherent liberties of the people....”
The Norfolk (Va.) Dispatch: "... A personal ambition for unquestioned power.”
Baltimore Sun: "...An act of executive arrogance ...the President with more jobs and more public funds at his disposal than any other President in history....”
Augusta (Ga.) Chronicle: "... if the citizens of Georgia do what President Roosevelt told us ... we must forget political independence as a thing dead and reconcile ourselves to complete dictation from the Chief Executive.”
Macon (Ga.) Telegraph: "The President's duplicity ... sheer malice....”
New Orleans States: "What right has Mr. Roosevelt to dictate to the people ... how they shall vote?”
Nashville (Tenn.) Banner: "... the power-drunk Chief Executive....”
Descriptive terms concerning Mr. Roosevelt as used in his own political family are certainly expressive. All Republicans are at a disadvantage for we are such polite folk.
I welcome this rise of Americanism above politics. And I wonder if it occurs to these Democratic former sponsors of Mr. Roosevelt that this issue is wider than even electing independent Democrats. If we are to have an independent Congress it implies Democratic support where Republican candidates are fighting against Mr. Roosevelt's yes-yes men or even 99 or 90 or 80 percent yes-men.
I noticed that the President in his speech toasting Senator George this August expressed his most affectionate friendship. I am reminded that when bold knights of old assembled they also publicly gave toasts of affection to each other. But custom required that they stand in such a position that neither could purge the other with a dagger in the hand that was not clasping the loving cup. And the dagger is the control of elections. Up-to-date chivalry throws in a few bridges.
The 300,000 political appointees are only the officers of their Praetorian army. That army is the great rank and file of distressed people on relief and the other great groups receiving benefits from the government.
These officers no doubt pass down the hints of this new etiquette of chivalry. Lest this should appear to be biased from me, let me quote again from Democratic sources. One Senator says: "Those who believe that out in the counties and in the cities and in the precincts this instrumentality (relief) which we have set up is not being used for political purposes are more credulous than I am.” Another describing conditions in certain Democratic primaries says: "These facts should arouse the conscience of the country. They imperil the right of the people to a free ballot.”
But having been proved by their own investigating committees to have morally suborned the vote against their own members in the primaries, what think you they will try to do to the Republican candidates in this election? But far more important than that, what does all this mean in public and private morals? Is this liberty under law? Or is this personal government?
We have a fourth category of these thistles and thorns of personal power from which we have no figs and no grapes. That is the group of ideas under the euphonious title of "Planned Economy.”
Planned Economy once had a connotation of forward-looking, co-operative, and voluntary action. But like other good words it has been led into bad company, and it is now used to cover up a "dictated economy” or "compulsory economy.”
Whether this compulsory economy is a creeping collectivism from Europe or whether it is a native American product, it has the same result of building intolerable personal power in the Republic.
I am not here discussing the economic consequences of the New Deal. I shall do that two weeks hence. But I may say this here.
These ideas of dictated or compelled economy have been mixed into the American system, which is a system of free enterprise regulated to prevent abuse. Money and credit and subsidies have been manipulated to force that mixture. That mixture weakens the mainspring of free enterprise. That mainspring is the confidence of men that if they deal fairly with others they shall in the future enjoy the reward of their abilities and effort. This shackled economy limits the productivity of men. When it diminishes confidence it destroys the jobs of men.
And it is not confidence of big business that matters. Despite all you hear, bug business is not an economic leader—it is only a follower. The economic leader is John Jones, who, made fearful and anxious, restricted and taxed, or out of a job, denies himself a steak or an orange, postpones buying a suit of clothes or an automobile, or building himself a house.
The net economic sum after six years of abandonment of the sure road to recovery is 11,000,000 unemployed, a distressed agriculture, a demoralized industry, and forty billions of debt. But worse than this, the number of the ill fed, the ill clothed, and the ill housed has steadily increased.
But the central idea of Mr. Roosevelt's economic policies which concerns this discussion is the gigantic shift of government from the function of umpire to the function of directing, dictating and competing in our economic life.
We have now had nearly six years' experience with these ideas. They were put forward as an emergency. And yet every session of Congress faces further demands. Power feeds only on more power.
The very mixture of power economics into free enterprise stirs up new forces which demand constantly increasing delegation of arbitrary personal power to officials. These forces involve constantly greater centralization of government. They undermine the spirit and the responsibility of local government. They involve conflicts with the Constitution. They are the excuses for minimizing the independence of the Congress and the Judiciary. And all this mixture of government-dictated economic life involves somber questions of government morals and public honor.
You will recollect that Mr. Roosevelt in his well-known self-confession said, "In thirty-four months we have built up new instruments of public power. In the hands of the people's government this power is wholesome and proper.” He concedes that in other hands "it would provide shackles for the liberties of the people.” The very essence of representative government in the Republic is that no man should possess the powers to shackle the liberties of the people. I might remark that the word Liberalism comes from the word liberty and not from the word shackles.
We must not confuse genuine liberal reforms with this rise of personal government and its economic system of coercion. Constant reform directed to prevent business abuses is a necessity of a progressive nation. We have been doing it for fifty years and will need to keep at it forever, because free men will always produce change through new inventions and new ideas. They will invent new varieties of wickedness. Whatever the New Deal has constructively accomplished in that direction is right. But we do not need to pull down the temple of liberty to catch a few cockroaches in the basement.
And our civilization must be one of increasing humanization. The advancement of remedy to social ills, old age needs, sweated labor, child labor, under-housing, relief of the destitute are proper functions of free government. The New Deal methods of advancing these long-established ideals are not always right. Certainly it is not necessary to have personal government to bring them about. And strangling the productivity of the nation is the sure defeat of all hopes of youth and old age. Already they are being supported only by borrowing from our children.
And there is a fifth direction where this thistle of personal power is spreading. The New Deal audits itself with slogans rather than cash registers. This department of New Deal liberalism is at least consistent in one particular. It is no longer haunted by the old ghost of a balanced budget.
These huge deficits and gigantic increase in debt have great dangers to free men. In their mildest form debt and taxes are a limitation of the freedom of men, for then men must work for the government and not for themselves. There is one thing you can put down both historically and economically. There only three ways to meet the unpaid bills of government. The first is more taxation. The second is more devaluation, which is repudiation. The third is inflation in some form.
Those are the implacable dangers of profligate spending. Let us not forget that increasing debts some day accumulate to where democracy cannot be brought to the agony of sufficient taxes to carry them. When that day arrives liberty dies in the gutter. It is easy to overstate the dangers. But where recklessness drives, there danger strikes.
These things are purported by this so-called New Deal liberalism to make for economic security and social justice. You reduce economic and social security when you limit and strangle the productivity of a people. You do not establish either economic or social security by blasting at the very foundations of free men and women.
One of the products of this era of personal government has been the rise of bitter discord among our people. The stir of class hate in the most classless nation is but part of it. The constant coercion and reprisals of this government-dictated economy daily divide our people in bitterness and hate. Industrial conflict grows more and more disastrous each year. Unceasingly do we see workers warring against workers.
These suffering masses on relief, deprived of hope of productive jobs, are being daily molded into a mass of dependents on government; and voted by the government. A hideous gulf grows daily between them and those who bear the burdens. We are a sadly disunited people. And no greater warning was ever given to America than that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
We of the opposition have not alone the duty to call a halt to these encroachments of personal power over free men and their consequences. It is our duty also to make clear that we are not demanding a halt to the needed and progressive solutions of changing problems which arise from the changing times. It is our further duty to urge the principles and methods that will return our people to work.
We have first to clear the land of some thorns and thistles.
We must have emancipation from the threat of a controlled Judiciary. We must free Congress from its subjugation. We must have regeneration of political morals. We must end the creation of hate and group conflict. We must extirpate the whole spoils system. We must have honesty in government. We must have a free and honest ballot.
must have expenditures controlled by Congress. We must have a balanced budget. We must have a currency convertible into gold as the only way to get it out of personal dictation. We must have a credit system independent of personal control and socialistic methods. We must have new and genuine banking reform. We must destroy exploitation and coercion of the people whether at private hands or government hands.
We must have emancipation from the creeping collectivism of dictated economy. We must take the government out of business in competition with the citizen. We must have freedom of business, labor and farmers from government dictation. We must grant genuine relief to farmers and restore the farmer's judgment in control of his business. We must have reform in the Labor Act to deal equal justice to all workers and all employers. We must have the only basis of liberalism, that is the rule of law and not of men.
We must reform relief under the administration of nonpartisan local committees. We must reform the old age pensions to make them just to the workers. We need to adopt real measures which enable people to obtain better housing. We must advance the whole question of medical attention to the indigent.
We have need to replant the land with measures which will restore confidence among men and hope among youth.
There are a host of needs of the people. The vast revolution in the powers of science and technology has placed within our grasp a future and a security never hitherto glimpsed by mankind. Yet the people cry out for employment. They yearn for security. All these will come if we do not stifle and shackle the productive genius which alone thrives in free men and women. The people hunger for this freedom of spirit. But it shrivels at once under the threats of personal government. It glows instantly with sure respect for the safeguards of personal liberty.
These are the roads from the slough of poverty. It is thus only that we may decrease the ill fed, the ill clad, the ill housed.
This is no lawyers' dispute over legalisms. It is not dispute over old-time custom. It is a fundamental battle of the people.
We may sum it up. Under a screen of fair sounding phrases we have seen the President of the United States steadily driving for more and more power over the daily lives of the people. We have seen him attempt to control the Supreme Court. We have seen his domination of Congress. We have seen personal control of expenditures. We have seen the attempt through the power of government expenditure to pollute the ballot. We have seen the attempt to mix in a system of free enterprise a system of creeping collectivism. We have seen a vindictive campaign to array class against class and group against group.
All this is the destruction of freedom and prosperity. If freedom is to reign on this continent the American people have to attend to it themselves. They can no longer leave it to the government.
You may ask: What can we do in the face of the formidable thing this personal power has become?
If we had an independent, courageous Congress we could find a start at solution of our ills. Therefore my first recommendation to you tonight is: Elect to Congress independent minded men. Elect men who will stand on their own feet. Elect men of character and capacity.
Second. Defeat every man of the kind who says he is a follower of any President 100 percent or 50 percent or any other percent. Such a man is not fit to serve. Members of the Congress of the United States, if they are men, do not take orders from anybody. If you will test the New Deal candidates as to whether they will oppose every one of these five attacks on free men which I have enumerated tonight, you will find them wanting.
Never before in all American history has there been a greater need for the people to protect themselves. And it is in the power of the people to do it now. They alone can make Congress the sword and buckler of their liberties.
The New Deal and its yes-yes men in Congress have been experimenting with the American way of life for six years at dreadful cost in human misery and despair. It would seem that the experiment has not been a success.
The voter might well experiment for himself for once. He might vote for men who would halt this whole movement. For a nation to take the next two years to stop, look, and listen is an experiment that could not make the situation worse. It is not a very great risk for the voter to take.
Such an action, by demonstrating that the Federal government had changed its present direction, that this is still a self-governing republic of free men, would restore hope and confidence to a weary people. It would restore productive jobs to millions of men. It would enable them to buy the farmers' products.
It might prove the experiment that saved the freedom of men and women of a great nation.